BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Two East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies resigned after a controversial photograph was taken of one of them, the department announced Friday, Nov. 15.
One of the deputies shot and killed a man in September after he responded to a call that a man had become violent during a birthday party in the Highland Club subdivision.
The suspect, Melvin Watkins, 54, was driving away from the scene when investigators say he tried to run over a deputy. Watkins was then shot and killed by a male deputy.
In October, a female deputy drew a teardrop on the face of that male deputy while the two were on duty. A teardrop tattoo is sometimes used to indicate the wearer has killed someone.
The female deputy then took a photograph of the male deputy with the teardrop on his face and texted the photograph to one of her supervisors. After the supervisor reported the incident, the matter was referred to internal affairs, investigators say
Investigators say the two deputies involved in the incident resigned after being informed of the internal affairs investigation.
Louisiana State Police investigated the September deadly shooting and recently turned over its findings to the district attorney’s office. The sheriff’s office issued the following statement Friday, Nov. 15:
“The attached picture is of a text message received by Uniform Patrol Captain Jared Ruiz of Kleinpeter substation on the afternoon of Friday October 11th. It came from a personal cell phone belonging to Dy. Kayla Clark that was working light duty on shift with the pictured deputy, James Hammett (was also on administrative duty).
Captain Ruiz called and notified Uniform Patrol Major Ricky Klug of the text he received and on the following business day, Monday October 14th. Major Klug met with and notified Colonel White that Monday concerning the text. In an abundance of caution Colonel White notified Internal Affairs to investigate to determine if any policy violations occurred. The Internal Affairs investigator/commander notified the Colonel he would be out of the office in training and would return on October 28th and would conduct an investigation at that time.
Colonel White instructed Major Klug to counsel both involved parties and make them aware that there would be an investigation. Major Klug stated that during his verbal counsel on October 14th the deputy that sent the text stated that she was trying to cheer up the other deputy because he was sad that he was not allowed on the road at this time and was on administrative duty. She stated the picture and text was in reference to his sadness at “doing time” on administrative duty rather than working on patrol. The deputy pictured said that he felt that she was being silly in an effort to cheer him up. Major Klug notified both that an internal affairs investigation would be conducted when the Internal Affairs investigator returned.
The female deputy put in her voluntary resignation on October 21st (effective the following week) citing difficulties with shift work and family life. The pictured deputy gave his voluntary resignation on October 22nd (effective October 26th) citing other unrelated personal reasons (please see previous emails related to this).
Neither deputy had any previous disciplinary actions nor internal affairs investigations. I’m attaching their personnel files. Neither had office issued cell phones. We have no further comment on this matter. Thank you.”
The Sept. 14 encounter lasted less than nine seconds after a relative called 911 to report that Watkins had been violent during the 95th birthday party of a relative.
Watkins was driving away from the scene when he apparently tried to run down a deputy, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said in a statement. The sheriff said preliminary results of the internal investigation show Watkins turned his car and accelerated toward the deputy while disregarding verbal commands to stop.